Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Night Flier (1997)






















There are many movie adaptations of Stephen King's work, mostly hit and miss truth be told, but there are some little gems hidden in the crowd. Now admittedly I knew nothing of this particular story and on first glance the title is kinda off putting, The Night Flier? really? I then discover its about a murderer who flies around in his little blacked out plane to remote airstrips and kills people. Basically its a vampire story (hence the blacked out plane), a vampire that uses a plane to travel around and drain folk dry, sounds daft doesn't it. Then you look at the movies poster and oh boy that doesn't help, to make things worse they even show the vampires monster face on the poster!

So the plot follows this cynical, grumpy, emotionless reporter played by Miguel Ferrer, he picks up this story about a killer flying around killing people in strange and sometimes horrific ways. The film plays on the fact the killer is a supernatural being, a vampire. Every time we see him he's basically dressed like Dracula with the typical long flowing black cape with high collar and shrouded in shadow, of course we never see his face (don't look at the films poster). The clever (well sort of clever) twist being we are not sure if the killer really is a vampire or maybe its all just coincidental, or perhaps it could all be in Dees (Ferrer) mind.

At the start of the movie we catch up with Dees in a bar after work, he's angry at his boss and drinking. We are then introduced to another younger female reporter who has recently joined the rag tabloid Dees works for. Dees explains to her how nasty the job is and how following and talking to all these weirdos and killers over the years may have warped his mind, or as he puts it, it all starts to make sense. This brief moment of dialog is a hint at the evolution of the plot and may or may not explain the ending.

Ferrer does a top job at playing the foul mouthed, rude, harsh and pessimistic Dees. This guy will stop at nothing for a good gruesome scoop with things like compassion and empathy falling by the wayside. To a degree its hard to get on this characters side because he is so unlikable. We follow his slow descent into madness as he tracks the killer from one vile murder scene to another, at times he shows a tiny amount of emotion but in general he gets worse as his obsession to uncover the truth swallows him. In the end you kinda feel sorry for the guy because his job is eating him alive, you want him to just quit and walk away.

As for the vampire killer its a little unclear to me. We are indeed led to believe the killer is a real vampire, his plane contains native soil for his rest, the plane is completely blacked out to protect against daylight, his attire and the way he drains blood from his victims. At one point Dees even uncovers a photo album inside the killers plane which appears to show the killer in human form before he became a vampire, although I'm not sure why or how he turned into a hideous monster. The pictures also seem to date back to around the First World War hinting at immortality. The big question is what does happen in the finale? is the vampire killer actually real? did he kill all these people? or was it in fact Dees all along in his crazy state of mind?

After some homework it appears the movie is actually pretty faithful to the original short story. In the book the killer is a vampire and he does leave Dees badly shaken in a sea of carnage making the police believe Dees was the killer. But the movie isn't so clear, it ends in similar fashion but also hints that Dees did kill people. Either that or the vampire did play with Dees mind and he goes temporarily nuts hacking up the already dead bodies (dead bodies of the people the vampire did actually kill) so it looks grave for him when the cops show up. The small scene showing the vampire (for some reason in human form?) leaving the airport after the cops show up and flying away in his plane does seem to confirm the latter, maybe? As for his human form, was that to show a curse had been broken perhaps? Dees had taken the rap which in turn freed the vampire from his grisly way of life?

There isn't a great deal of vampiric stuff going on for the most part admittedly, we see plenty of dead bodies and gore yes but not much of the killer. When you do see him he doesn't actually look scary either, more cliched and cheesy if anything, its like watching Bela Lugosi marching around. That is of course until the big reveal (don't look at the films pos...ah too late), when Dees finally comes face to face with the beast...and its one hell of a prosthetic mask! A rat-like face with a huge gaping maw and two giant sharp fangs for puncturing a mortals neck. Again its not exactly a scary moment, not shocking, but the craftsmanship on the makeup is top notch, really eerie with an original flare.

It still seems silly to have a vampire flying around in a blacked out plane, surely it would be easy to track and catch with the planes ID numbers and radar etc...The film does touch on that but nothing seems to come of it, no one ever seems to really try to catch this plane. All you would need is one good ambush when he lands, or sabotage his plane and he's screwed for the most part. Still the plane aspect does actually work nicely I can't deny, you wouldn't think it but it does.

This is actually a great little horror flick with some excellently dark atmospheric moments and some nice creepy old fashioned spine chilling visuals. Its not the best vampire flick I've seen but it does hold its own with its unique quirky style. Add to that a shit-tonne of easter eggs from the King universe for fanboys, and you have a solid enjoyable movie for a dark cold rainy night.

7/10